West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday (October 15) said cancelling Durga puja celebrations was not an option, and urged people to maintain all Covid-19 safety protocols during the festive days.

The ‘Forum for Durgotsab’, an umbrella body of all the big Durga Pujas in West Bengal, expressed their dismay over a petition filed on Wednesday (October 14) by advocate Sabyasachi Chatterjee in the Calcutta High Court to restrict the scale of celebrations to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Calcutta High Court is likely to hear the plea on Friday (October 16).

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Reacting to the petition, Saswata Basu, the General Secretary of the Forum, said, “I don’t know why such a petition was filed. All we can say is that we are strictly following all the guidelines of COVID-19 safety and taking all precautionary measures. The state government has already issued a notification to all the puja club committees in the state and framed strict guidelines for Durga puja celebration. We are following all the norms. Also, we are expecting a less crowd this year due to non-functional local train services in Bengal. Overall, we are fully prepared for the festival.”

Mamata Banerjee after virtually inaugurating 110 pandals in 12 districts from the State Secretariat said, “It is not possible to stop Durga Puja festivities in West Bengal entirely, like some other states. We don’t want to stop Durga Puja, it is not right; we have not stopped anything.”

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Certain sections of the society, including a few doctors’ associations, have requested the government to call off this year’s revelries, amid the spike in coronavirus cases. Epidemiologists have warned of a surge in Covid-19 numbers, following the Durga Puja festival, which is usually marked by mass gathering at pandals.

The CM, however, reasoned that adequate safety measures were being taken, and asked all puja organisers to ensure that open spaces were available for the visitors to maintain appropriate physical distance.